The Student Movement

Arts & Entertainment

“Encanto”: Disney’s Handling of Latinx Culture

Kaela McFadden

Photo by Public Domain

Released back in November, “Encanto” has been a fun family movie filled with classic Disney music and magic. It is one of Disney’s only Latinx movies and the writers managed to stay close to the Colombian culture that inspired the movie.

As I watched the movie over Christmas break, I got swept up into this vibrant world of family, magic, music, and Colombian flair. Although I can appreciate it from a storytelling and musical aspect, I wanted to learn more about the cultural importance of “Encanto.” I asked Loren Manrique (junior, animal science) and Nathalie Batres (junior, psychology) about their experience with “Encanto.”

Batres said, “I enjoyed watching Encanto. I found it very entertaining and joyful to watch as you learn about each character within a song.”

With Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music for “Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” and “Moana,” at the musical helm, it is no surprise that the music of “Encanto” carries the same explosive flair containing both English and Spanish lyrics. The songs are quite catchy and are becoming fast favorites among fans.

“The music definitely stuck with me, and it set the mood of the whole movie, so you’ll feel the story's emotion. The Bruno piece absolutely stood out to me. I had that song stuck in my mind for quite some time afterwards,” said Batres.

Manrique said, “My favorite song will always be a more simple one and it is “Dos Oruguitas” written by my second favorite artist of all time, Sebastian Yantra, who I have been a fan of for many many years. He did an amazing job in kind of bringing a conclusion to the conflict and to show that even though we are all different we can come together. It shows the importance of unity through change.”

Latinx culture in and of itself is broad and diverse, but this movie has elements that speak to the culture as a whole as well as Colombian culture specifically. The movie is set in Colombia, so Manrique, being Colombian, explained what sort of impact this had on her and how it affects Latinx and Colombian cultures.

“From my cultural point of view, “Encanto” meant a lot to me, as a Colombian born and raised there, we often have the stereotype of drugs, narcos, and violence. My entire life my culture was misunderstood and seen in a bad way because of something that happened a long time ago in Colombia, and instead of showcasing the beauty of my country in the entertainment world people only saw the bad. So “Encanto” meant a great deal to me; I was finally represented in a good way and the world was going to finally recognize the other aspects of my culture and country. Hopefully, Disney or other entertainment networks will keep this up and show all of us.”

The entertainment industry has slowly been making strides towards becoming more diverse and “Encanto” is a great example of that change. From using Latinx voice actors and singers, efforts were certainly made to uplift voices from this often overlooked ethnic group. In the Spanish version of the movie, all of the voice actors are Colombian.

“If you understand Spanish, I recommend watching it in Spanish, since you will be able to recognize the different Colombian accents and it will feel like Colombia,” said Manrique.

Manrique continues, “It does make a positive impact on the community. In Colombia, as an example, we have a huge ethnic diversity that is shown in every region of our country; some Colombians have white skin with blue eyes and blond hair, while others have caramel-colored skin with brown eyes and curly hair, and others have a darker skin tone and very curly hair. In other words, in Colombia, we all look very different and the movie did a great job in showing that.”

She explained how some of the inclusions specifically spoke to the Colombian influences that are a part of the movie.

“An example can be seen in the way that Mirabel’s dad dresses. He always has elegant wear showing how a ‘cachaco’ (someone from the interior of the country or the capital) dresses, showing that part of my culture's way is to always dress nice and be seen pulled together, which is something that I have been taught all my life but I never actually got to see represented.” 
With all of these amazing inclusions and beautiful storytelling taken into account, I personally recommend this movie. I think that it was so much fun to experience the music, the family dynamics, and the incredible Colombian culture. Musical fans will especially enjoy this movie. In the end, it is so much bigger than a simple musical though, because it proves that diversity is becoming more important in entertainment and it is showing that diverse stories can indeed be executed well if they are given the proper attention and include people from that culture in the movie-making process.

The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.